Old school RPG action!


Not a very threatening punch...

...but apparently it's effective! Catch ya later, chump!

The stairs look almost real! I would walk up them if I were that guy.

There's no way I would have bought that copy of Monster Rancher 4 if the clerk hadn't been such hotty.

I'll buy the a;lik[hb please.

Head kicking goodness. Crack!

RCR EX, now with stackable bad guys!

No! That was a scary story!


Street Fightin' Fun
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Publisher: Atlus
Rating Pending

River City Ransom EX is a remake of the original River City Ransom, which was released for the NES way back in 1989. The charm of the original River City was its trademark visual style and humor, straight-forward yet addictive Double Dragon-esque gameplay, and RPG-inspired character building, all of which led to a strong cult following. With EX, publisher Atlus and developer Million (previously known as Technos) deliver an old school action-packed side-scroller with RPG elements to the Game Boy Advance.

The story for River City Ransom is simple: the player controls either Alex or Ryan, two high-schoolers who are on a mission to rescue Ryan's girlfriend, Cydni, and their classmates from River City's premiere gang leader, Slick. It's not much, just enough to force these two brawlers to the streets to beat up some bad guys! The GBA remake features a few slight enhancements from the NES version, including a new Dynamic Story mode which lets the player make certain decisions to control the flow of the story. Two player cooperative mode is also available with the help of a link cable, as well as 2 player battle mode where two players can battle their customized characters to the pixelated death.

The fun and addictive combat of the first River City Ransom was what made the title so endearing. Controls for the GBA remake have not been altered from the original. The player has one button to punch and one button to kick. These same two buttons allow players to jump when pressed simultaneously, block when pressed in response to an enemy attack, and will pick up weapons or bodies from the ground. Many different weapons are available including sticks, garbage cans, ladders, chains, brass knuckles, and rocks. When carrying a weapon, players can attack with the punch button, and the kick button will send the weapon flying towards an enemy. If that wasn't enough, combat in EX has also been enhanced to include a larger array of punch and kick animations, longer combo attacks, and the ability to charge up to do stronger attacks like rising uppercuts and jump kicks.

The majority of River City Ransom EX takes place in gang land as the player wanders around, chucking rocks at gangsters and generally being a nuisance. Occasionally, the player will come across a strip mall where they can spend their hard-earned gansta-fightin' cash. Items can be purchased to increase a character's stats, which include things like punch, kick, defense, speed, and vitality, while others enable a character to learn new attack techniques.

During the course of River City Ransom EX the player can start their own gang by recruiting a maximum of three allies. New gang members can be recruited if the main character's reputation, a hidden stat, is high enough. Actions that will raise a character's reputation include beating a boss, making an ally, and taking hits from enemies. Hitting a boss before they finish talking, hitting or killing an ally, or hitting an enemy while they are on the ground will lower your reputation. Some characters have specific requirements needed to recruit them in addition to a high reputation, such as speaking to certain NPCs or having another character already recruited.

The graphics for River City Ransom EX have been updated since its NES release. Background and character animations are more colorful and detailed, and shading effects add a greater sense of depth to the characters and their environment. There is also a wider array of attack animations corresponding to the new techniques that are available. Also new to EX, the appearance of the main character can be customized by using a special item which is available after first completion of the game. Admittedly the graphics don't look spectacular when compared to other GBA titles like Sword of Mana, but they are an improvement over the original release.

The music and sound effects are no longer limited by an 8-bit console, but the GBA offers little in the realm of improvement. All the tracks from the original River City Ransom are present, but with an improved sound quality and more instrument layers. The main theme is catchy, but gets a little old due to its presence through a large portion of the game. Some of the sound effects are satisfying and humorous, with cracking sounds accompanying a stick to the head and loud smackings when a character runs into a wall.

Will River City Ransom EX appeal to a new generation of RPGamers? If the title stays as true to the original as it appears, it should definately be a fun addition to any GBA collection. With slapstick inspired combat, quirky graphics, and addictive character building potential, RCR EX should help while away those lonely summer nights when it's released on May 25.


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